Friday, February 15

Beneath the Wings


The first performance I have much cognitive memory of I was six years old.

Surely, there were others which preceded it. The in house shows at the end of each semester in the dance studio. Each class of budding young artists had paraded in front of adoring parents their polaroids and their generous applause. But this would be my first moment on the professional stage. I had been chosen to perform in a suite of choreography and I, along with the others in the cast, had spent weeks, possibly months, in rehearsal every Saturday morning in the army barracks building turned dance studio. I remember so much about the sights, sounds and smells of the place; the very way that the dust looked in the forgotten corners, how the sunshine came in at a slight angle through the partitioned windows and the way the records on the player scratched and skipped.

That experience is a moment frozen in time in my memory. The whole of each individual gesture and exercise, the sound of the choreographer's voice, the sight of watching the grown-up dancers work through the movement while we few young ones played in the corner of the room, is wrapped up in one eclectic and extravagant memory package.

But what I remember most--after the rehearsals, the costume fittings, applying the makeup and waiting an arduously long time backstage--is the moment I sprang out from the wings and entered that magical world of lights. It was the first time I felt that incredible connection between expression and reception. I couldn't have named it then and am not certain I can explain it at all well now, but there is this something deeply connective between an artist and her audience; an energy which, could it be contained just might power peace on the planet. Or if not that, at least could increase the happiness level of an individual exponentially.

I gave it my everything that night, pouring my heart into every movement. Whatever nervous butterflies had been flitting in my belly up to that minute, they were instantaneously gone when my bare feet touched the marley flooring; and the energy of the thousand flapping wings was pushing me forward to share my best; my all.

You well may wonder how I can recall it all so clearly. That's easy. In the 25 years of performing which was to follow for me, it happened every time.

I haven't been on a stage as a performer in a good many years and instead have found the magic occurs for me now by watching my young students find that moment themselves. The mystical connection and energy exchange between s/he who is on the stage and they who are in the audience rarely disappoints and I love to watch as a child experiences and processes such an incredible moment.

Part of what I personally left behind when our family moved to The Netherlands was the performing arts program I had built and nurtured in our Arizona community. It wasn't the easiest thing to let go and truth be told, I miss teaching very, very much. I have snuck in a class or two here and there in the past couple of years and have enjoyed those moments very, very much.

And this week, I got to get in on it all over again.

The music teacher at our school is organizing and directing a musical for the children. Someone, somewhere whispered something to her and she approached and asked if I could help with the choreography for the show.

I answered.

And in a few weeks time I will be watching a whole new crop of budding performers enter the stage (some for the first time ever) and touch that moment where they pour their hearts into the song and the movement and are received by an adoring audience--replete with camcorders--who will signal approval with the thunderous sound of applause.

Indeed, several stars will be born.

And I will be there to see it all happen.


See what else is happening at 42 where you'll find the links to more memories.

Once a performer
Now a teacher for children
I watch from the wings


  1. First posting to my daughter's blog: Will wonder's never cease! Sorry to hear that you were sick last week with the "wee-wee" sickness. Sorry I couldn't be there to take care of you. Sorry you didn't drink enough water...that really surprises me, since you always seem to have water at your side. Remembering that you are prone to infections of this type. Excited to know you will be inspiring beautiful children to find their "magic eye" and their performance best. Keep teaching, keep dreaming, keep praying and keep smiling. I love you!

  2. I can relate to this so much... as you know I spent most of my childhood performing but in a different form to you, my medium was the violin and I have performed on many many a stage some far more glittering than others but you are right you have the same feeling every time... i am lucky enough to get it when my little ones have a magic moment and i can watch it happen before my eyes. You know you can always come and teach mine whenever you feel the urge i feed off your creativity!xxxxxxxxxxxx

  3. Oh, you really have a knack of pouring all your memories into my head and make me remember similar experiences! You can describe things in a way that makes other people relate to it.

    Also, I love the poem!

  4. That's fantastic! How wonderful for everyone that you'll be doing that.

  5. What a wonderful joy that will be! I was a drama teacher for many years and love working with children in that area.

    Have fun!

    Beautifully written post, too.

  6. It's funny, your post brings up feelings in two areas. I remember being transformed by drama. The geeky girl became a "star". Kids at school didn't even recognize me when i was in costume and "in character". It opened up a whole different side of my personality. So much of that I have left behind, but at the same time I have incorporated a lot into who I am today.

    And then teaching astronomy to kids (including Emma!) who get so excited about things I was/am so excited about. It was so much fun to hear them talk about "their moon" and all the facts they had discovered. And to look out at the shining faces and imagine that there might be a future astronaut in the bunch...

    Better than a crystal ball ain't it!!

  7. It's really amazing how participating in the theatre can change a person. I'm not an on stage sort of person but I spent my childhood summers from abotu the age off 8 to 18 working backstage in many various theatre companies. Those aren't memories I'd ever be willing to give up.

    I love the way you've told this story and I'm excited to hear more about the musical you're working on.

    Thanks for playing this FlashBack Friday.

  8. This was so beautifully written. Just lovely! I'm glad you're getting the chance to be involved with the musical. There's no feeling quite as good as doing the things your heart longs to do.